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Book #87: The Painted Bird

Almost every novel on the Time list is dark in some way. Some more than others, of course, but they all have that element of darkness.

None of them, though, reach the level of The Painted Bird. This novel, y’all, it’s brutal.

Imagine a 6-year-old Jewish kid, abandoned by his parents, witnessing a gauntlet of tortuous events—a young teenager’s eyeballs gouged out, a man falling into a pit of ravenous rats, a woman brutally raped to the point she dies—and that’s just the beginning.

Jerzy Kosinksi originally said The Painted Bird was a memoir but later admitted, after much criticism, that wasn’t true. That’s good, because the novel is too unbelievable to be true.

Of course, terrible things happen to people. And, of course, lots of terrible things happen to some people. So it’s not that. The problem with The Painted Bird is this kid, while his life is awful, is repeatedly a random witness to some of the most over-the-top vile things you’ll ever read about.

It’s to the point of being comical. It’s like Jerzy Kosinski had some quite of wheel of torture and he spun it when deciding what the kid would be a witness to next—a decapitated puppy, a waterboarded kitten, an a bullfrog orgy? No, none of that was in the book but it would’ve fit in just perfectly.

If you watch Game of Thrones, imagine some of the more brutal scenes—then imagine a 6 year old being witness to all of that—and you pretty much have The Painted Bird.

I don’t have a lot else to say about this novel. Kosinski is an engaging writer. Despite the extreme darkness of the material, I connected with his style. I won’t go too much into the ending, either, because spoilers and all.

But Kosinski’s writing style is the only positive thing I can say about The Painted Bird. It’s just too over-the-top dark for me to recommend—unless that’s your thing.

I’ll give The Painted Bird one tortured puppy out of five.

Other Stuff

The Opening

The Meaning: The title comes from a story in the book. A birdcatcher catches a bird then paints it multiple colors. Upon returning to flight, he’s an outcast to the other birds.

Highlights: Kosinski can write.

Lowlights: Never has one 6 year old witnessed so many over-the-top graphic events in the existence of literature or real life.

Memorable Line: “It mattered little if one was mute; people did not understand one another anyway. They collided with or charmed one another, hugged or trampled one another, but everyone knew only himself. His emotions, memory, and senses divided him from others as effectively as thick reeds screen the mainstream from the muddy bank. Like the mountain peaks around us, we looked at one another, separated by valleys, too high to stay unnoticed, too low to touch the heavens.”

Final Thoughts: Nope.

The Painted Bird: Memoir or Fiction?

Did you ever hear the one about Jerzy Kosinski passing off The Painted Bird as a memoir?

Yeah, that kind of happened.

Here’s how our always trustworthy friends at Wikipedia put it: Read more

Terrible Things Happen in This Book

Let’s talk about The Painted Bird.

If you read my preview, you’ll remember that our protagonist in this novel is an orphaned six-year-old boy during World War 2.

In the first 60 pages, said child witnesses the following incidents (note: these aren’t essential to the plot so no spoilers here…just illustrating the graphic nature of this book): Read more

Next Up: The Painted Bird

Just when I thought this list of books couldn’t get any more depressing, in steps The Painted Bird. This novel by Jerzy Kasinski is the story of an orphaned, homeless Jewish boy during War World 2. We see the world through the eyes of a horribly mistreated six year old. This one sounds like a great, peppy read for summer.

A few facts about The Painted Bird and its author Jerzy Kasinski: Read more

Book #86: The Heart of the Matter

This book.

I don’t know what I expected coming into The Heart of the Matter. I’ve already read The Power and the Glory, which I currently have ranked 27 out of the 85 novels I’ve read so far, and I knew Graham Greene was an exceptional writer. But I didn’t quite expect to like this novel as much as I did.

The Heart of the Matter is, simply put, a beautiful, elegant novel. No surprise here, since it’s on the Time Magazine list, this is a fairly dark book. Not in a dreary Blood Meridian, Money type of way. But more in somber, sadness. Like, if a novel could outline a person’s road to severe depression, this novel would be it. Or if a dreary rainy day could exist in novel form, it would be The Heart of the Matter. Read more

Bookish Pet Peeve #11: The Interrupter

Imagine with me, if you will:

Crashing waves. Sandy beach. Shaded umbrella. Light breeze. Margarita. Entrancing novel. Maybe a dozing husband or wife by your side.

Is that your happy place? It’s one of mine.

But let’s add another element to that peaceful, serene setting. Read more

Read This Passage Before You Cheat On Your Spouse

Graham Greene, y’all. The man is such a brilliant writer.

I want to share one more passage with you before I wrap this book up soon and move on to the next one. This passage comes just after a scene where one of the main characters, Scobie, has committed his first act of infidelity. Read more

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